Privilege at the Ulta


For many African American people in America, white privilege is alive and apparent every day of our lives. We see it everywhere we go, all over our televisions, in politics, etc. A day never goes by that doesn’t remind us that life in America might be a little easier if we had fairer skin.

I’ve recently gotten into wearing makeup. When I’m heading to a party, or out for a celebration, I like to dress up my outfit with an amazing full face of makeup. I love it. But what I don’t love, is my oily skin causing my flawless finish to shine. Nothing is better than a matte face, so I visited my local Ulta in a hunt for an oil-free foundation at a decent price. Since Ulta carries many drug store brands, I knew that a representative could give me some good advice for an inexpensive product.

When I walked in, I had no problem finding someone to help me look for a foundation, nor did the representative and I have problems finding foundations made for oily skin, but the problem we did face was finding a foundation dark enough for my complexion. The representative, a young, blond, caucasian woman, was so shocked. She couldn’t believe how limited the color selection was. We paced from alise to alise, brand to brand, only to find one brand with a color in my shade. The representative couldn’t believe it. She even made a comment that she usually “just picks up her color with ease” so she never realized how difficult it could be for someone of my complexion to find a foundation in their shade.

I couldn’t help myself. Before I even realized what I was saying, I was telling the representative about the white privilege she has by being able to find her shade “with ease”. Of course I didn’t say it quite that harsh and she didn’t even take offense, but it got me thinking about how many other Caucasian people may not notice the privilege they have.

I served two terms of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program, that teaches a lot about diversity and privilege. It was mandated to recognize privilege and work to towards equality and inclusion. I sometimes think that if I’ve been exposed to or experienced something, that everyone else has too. But that is not a true statement. Many Caucasian people don’t realize that they in fact have privilege- and that is a problem.

When privileged people turn a blind eye to that privilege, they allow an environment for the oppressors to continue to oppress. There will never be a world with true inclusion and acceptance of diversity, if the privileged people don’t recognize their privilege. Finding my shade of makeup is not a life or death situation, but it does represent a bigger problem. There is a such thing as institutional racism, and a lack of shades of color is just the tip of that iceberg.

To sum it all up, if people are not a part of the solution, they are a part of the problem. If they don’t recognize the problem, they are still a part the problem.

What are your thoughts? What’s your view on privilege, Institutional racism, and the lack of darker shades of makeup available in high-end makeup stores? Let m know in the comments section below.



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  1. I don’t know a thing about makeup. For me it’s a black eye liner, unless I want to get a little adventurous and go with a color, some lip gloss and I’m done. If even that lol. But I agree with you on everything you said. As a Latina I feel like we also have some of the same issues. I’ve been on the other end of racism and not being a “privileged individual.” I will never forget when I walked into a clothing store with a friend looking for a dress and the employee kept following us and eventually asked us if we “were sure that we could afford anything there.” It was very upsetting especially because she didn’t follow or say anything of that sort through a group of white girls that walked in after us. Those girls just laughed and kept shopping. They didn’t and most likely will never know what it’s like to go through situations like that just because their skin in fairer. Like you said, that’s the issue and we need to make a change. By you speaking to the employee at the Ulta you did help with that change because now she is aware of an issue she never really thought about. It may seem like a small step but it’s better than nothing. I think it’s great and we need more people to speak up and open people’s eyes on this topic.


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